The Entourage Effect
Cannabinoids and Terpenes That Stick Together
If cannabis had a slogan, it might be “the more the merrier”. That’s because of its highly synergistic nature. The cannabinoids—or active agents—in the cannabis plant work in tandem with terpenes, which are the aromatic molecules that give the plant its signature smell and also produce different physiological effects. Together, cannabinoids and terpenes enhance the therapeutic benefits of cannabis in what is known as “the entourage effect”.
The entourage effect was introduced in 1998 by Israeli scientists Shimon Ben-Shabat and Raphael Mechoulam. Their theory was that cannabinoids within the cannabis plant were more effective together than by themselves. The strongest case for this theory is made by the two most famous cannabinoids in the cannabis plant—THC and CBD. Evidence shows that CBD actually mitigates the psychotropic effects of THC by blocking some of the THC receptors in our bodies. The end result of this relationship is that patients get the same therapeutic benefits with fewer unwanted symptoms.
Studies on the entourage effect have led the medical marijuana industry to move away from isolating and extracting THC to adopting a “whole plant” approach. For example: Marinol, a pure, synthetic form of THC, was introduced in the mid 1980s as a medically identical substitution for the cannabis plant. However, it soon became evident that patients were not responding to Marinol the same way they did when ingesting or smoking naturally grown cannabis. This led researchers to the conclusion that compounds like CBD and terpenes were necessary to realize the full power of THC.
In short, the entourage effect is the cannabis plant’s way of reminding us that sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that sticking together can bring about better results.